Icons / February 2017

By Royal Appointment: Sir Hardy Amies

Arguably one of the most influential designers of the 21st century, Sir Hardy Amies’ refined tastes extended far beyond the end of the catwalk.

Hardy Amies in 1960. Photo by David Steen/Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock.

“I have absolutely no desire to do anything too revolutionary with men’s fashion,” as the tailor and couturier, gent and roue, Hardy Amies once explained, before going on to do just the opposite. “I think men have just got used to the idea of where the pockets are.” But then again, in the 60s Amies’ idea of future style foretold of us wearing slim bow-ties, high-buttoning cutaway jackets and extra narrow trousers - all excellent predictions, were it not for the fact that he also suggested said trousers would be worn tucked into calf-length boots.

So the flamboyantly outspoken Amies - who died aged 94 in 2003, leaving the legacy of his design approach and company behind him - did not always get it right. But few could question the progressiveness of his vision, as a designer, businessman and, surely, a man after The Rake's heart. Amies - always tailored - would have considered much of today's wardrobe to be what he used to call "leisure clothes".

He, after all, once defined casualwear by the stark contrast to that which he considered proper - “clothes you wear when you aren’t wearing a suit".

So attitudes to dress have changed too. But our very conception of menswear - its status today, its place in society - owes a debt to him. Often misunderstood as, primarily, a womenswear designer - remarkably, he was dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth from her accession to the throne to his retirement in 1989, and he did collect needlework, after all - Amies was far more dynamic in his approach to menswear.

This year, for instance, marks the 50th anniversary of his ground-breaking costume designs for Kubrick's ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ - not just the Pan Am space cruiser's stewardesses, with those clever grip shoes, or the signature boldly-coloured space suits, but those Prada-esque, high-buttoning, narrow lapelled, crop legged tweed suits worn by the likes of Leonard Rositer, recognisably not of the 1960s but not so futuristic as to date the film half a century either. Amies would go on to dress Patrick McNee in The Avengers TV series as well.

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Josh Sims

Josh Sims is a writer on menswear, design and much else for the likes of Wallpaper, CNN, Robb Report and The Times. He's the author of several books on menswear, the latest 'The Details', published by Laurence King. He lives in London, has two small children and is permanently exhausted.